Residents Speak Out About Fish Farm Plans

Offshore Aquaculture may be coming to the Gulf Coast. The change will mean millions of fish would be raised in controlled environments also known as fish farms.

Proponents say the farms will boost the economy, others argue that fish farming will cause serious problems for recreational fishing.

Wednesday leaders from the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Council and members from the Food and Water Watch organization had a public meeting to discuss the plan.

Dozens of people showed up to the Wingate Inn in D'Iberville to voice their concerns about offshore aquaculture.

"There going to be dumping hormones and food into that water maximizing their profit by increasing their food," said Howard Paige with the Sierra Club.

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Council says fish farming will decrease the nations dependency on seafood imports and some feel that will create a safer product.

Dr. Bill Hawkins is with the Gulf Cost Research Laboratory at the University of Southern Mississippi. He says about 80 percent of the nation's seafood is imported and creating aquacultures in the U.S. will help eliminate the risk of disease.

"Look at the science, a lot of scientist are managing this, most effectively to ensure that no harm is done," Hawkins said.

Some residents still aren't convinced. Many say with issues like the salt dome, oil rigs and pollution from Hurricane Katrina, adding fish farms is the last thing the Gulf Coast needs.

"Just because there is a large number of fish being imported overseas, doesn't justify this," said Terese Collins.

Residents also say hasn't been enough public input on the plan and with the vote just weeks away, many are now hoping the council will hold off on their fish farm plans.

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council says its been working on the plan for the past five years...and there have been several public hearings.

The council will continue to hold hearings over the next few days in other states that may be affected by the proposal.